Can You Fly a Drone In a National Park [ANSWERED]

Can You Fly a Drone In a National Park [ANSWERED] Blog
Can You Fly a Drone In a National Park [ANSWERED]

If you love flying your drone you might be looking for new scenic locations to get some great footage, what better place to do this other than a national park. But are you allowed to fly a drone in a national park as a hobbyist?

Since June 2014, the United States National Park Service, (NPS,) banned the take-off and landing of all recreational drones within national parks across the U.S. However, this law does not apply to emergency services, government officials and drone pilots that have received special permission.

Most national parks have banned the use of drones within their borders thanks to the NPS. But can I still fly my drone OVER a national park? And does this really mean ALL national parks? Keep reading to find out.

Can I fly my drone OVER a National Park as a hobbyist?

The law states that drones can’t take off or land in a national park. So does this mean that you can fly over the park?

Yes, it does! Flying drones over national parks is allowed! This hasn’t just been verified, but it’s also been confirmed by the NPS themselves in this article. So if you can find a suitable area to take off and land outside of the national park, then you should be good to go.

However, if you do crash in the park you could get into some trouble. So I wouldn’t personally venture too far.

Also, apart from FAA drone laws, there are some other rules you need to make sure you follow to avoid trouble:

  • Don’t interfere with wildlife.
  • Remain in line of sight of your drone at all times.
  • Don’t become a nuisance to anyone or don’t risk anyone’s safety.

A lot of this has to do with remaining respectful. If your intentions are good and you stick to FAA drone laws, you shouldn’t have a problem.

What if NPS bothers you about flying over a national park?

There is a chance that NPS staff might come out of the park and try to stop you. However, you need to know they have no authority outside of the park boundaries. If this does happen to you, point them to this article that is published on their own government website.

Any National Parks that do allow drones to take off/land?

The law on drones that was issued by the NPS does allow for drone pilots to get “special use permits” to allow them to fly for emergency uses like search and rescue, research, and fire safety. But what about us?

It seems almost impossible to get these permits. The NPS does not seem to hand them out easily, in fact, there are only a few cases of the NPS issuing a permit to fly in a national park.

The Grand Canyon has a drone fleet that is used for the sole purpose of search and rescue operations in and around the park. The fleet was formed in 2016 and since then has made headlines for conducting various search and rescue operations.

That being said I have heard of people getting permission to fly their personal drones in the park. The best advice I can give you is to speak to or call a superintendent at the park you’re looking to visit and ask them. They’ll tell you exactly what you need to know.

All this doesn’t mean that there are no other places to fly your drone! Keep reading to find out exactly where you can, and can’t fly your drone.

However, there are a few rules you need to stick to.

Can you fly drones in State Parks?

Flying drones in State Parks are currently allowed unless prohibited by a District Superintendent’s posted order.

These orders may prohibit the use of drones in state parks for a number of reasons:

  • Protection of a threatened species.
  • Threats to a cultural or natural resource.
  • Public safety
  • High fire danger
  • impact on visitor privacy and park experience.
  • recreational conflict

State Parks recommends that recreational flyers check with their local state park before operating within a State Park as each park may have its own posted orders.

Other areas you can fly a drone?

Even though drones have been banned in National Parks, there are still plenty of easily accessible places around the United States with beautiful scenery for you to fly your drone.

These areas include:

  • National Forests
  • State Parks
  • Local Parks

All these areas can be amazing places to fly your drone as long as you comply with all the drone laws that have been put in place by the FAA.

As long as you comply with all the various rules and you are mindful of the safety and privacy of the people around you then you will have plenty of options to fly your drone.

FAA Drone Laws

It doesn’t matter if you want to fly your drone for fun or for work if your drone weighs over 0.55lbs and less than 55lbs, it must be registered. You can register your drone on the FAADroneZone website.

Recreational Flyer/Hobbyist Rules

  • The drone must be within visual line-of-sight.
  • Must register your drone with the FAA.
  • Must only fly for recreational purposes only.
  • You must follow community-based safety guidelines.
  • Always fly below 400 feet.
  • You must never fly near other aircraft.
  • Must fly in class G airspace.
  • Never fly near emergency response efforts.
  • The drone must weigh less than 55lbs.
  • You cannot fly directly over people.
  • You cannot fly over a moving vehicle.

Here is a video that may be more informative about the different rules you should be aware of when flying a drone for recreational purposes in the United States.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvu3dFdERxsVideo can’t be loaded because JavaScript is disabled: Rules for Drone Hobbyists – 2019 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvu3dFdERxs)
2019 Federal Aviation Administration rules for recreational drone pilots

Commercial Flying Rules

  • Must fly in class G airspace.
  • Must have a Remote Pilot Certificate issued by the FAA.
  • The drone must weigh less than 55lbs.
  • Must keep the drone within visual line-of-sight.
  • Fly below 400 feet at all times.
  • You must fly at or under 100mph.
  • You cannot fly directly over people.
  • You cannot fly over a moving vehicle.

AirMap

Airmap is an application available on the App Store or the Playstore that allows drone pilots to view aeronautical data in order to be able to maneuver their drones with ease.

This app allows pilots to stick to all the laws by notifying them where it is safe to fly as well as notifying them when there are any flights nearby.

Every Drone enthusiast should be using the AirMap application in order to fly a drone safely.

Can You Fly a Drone In a National Park [ANSWERED]
Example of what airmap interface looks like.

Why Are Drones Banned In National Parks?

The NPS banned the use of drones in and around National Parks because drones can be disturbing to both people and wildlife. This ban was initiated in 2014 after multiple incidents caused bans in various national parks around the United States.

“[The drone ban stems from] serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks.”

– Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service

The NPS was worried that the noise and visual distraction from the drones would be a negative experience for all the people trying to enjoy the beauty of the park.

A lot of people try to argue that drone pilots could simply just avoid the highly populated areas of the park in order to eliminate the concerns that the NPS had, but the NPS was also worried about the negative impact the drones would have on the animals and environment.

When the NPS issued this ban back in 2014 drones were just starting to become popular, you could only imagine how many drones would be flying around the National Parks now, with their increased popularity and accessibility, if this ban was not implemented.

Drone Incidents at National Parks

Drones have caused some serious problems at National Parks both before and after they were banned.

These are just some of the incidents:

  • In 2013 a drone pilot landed his drone on Lincolns head at Mount Rushmore.
  • A Dutch tourist crashed a drone into the Grand Prismatic Spring geyser at Yellowstone National Park in August of 2014. He received a 1-year ban and was also fined $3,200.
  • A Helicopter used by the Yellowstone National Park was forced to land as park officials were afraid it could be involved in a collision with a rogue drone.

Fines For Taking Off or Landing A Drone In A National Park

The NPS takes this ban on drones very seriously and will not hesitate to take action against anyone who decides to go against the rules and fly a drone in a National Park.

Violating the drone ban in a National Park that is controlled by the NPS could lead the pilot to spend up to six months in prison and pay a fine of up to $5,000.

A lot of pilots have been banned from national parks, and in some rare cases also received jail time.

Know Your Laws

It is very important to know the various laws as a drone pilot so you know where you are allowed to fly a drone and where you are not allowed to fly your drone.

Park Rangers and various law enforcement are not always correct so it is also very important to know the law as a pilot in order to be able to defend yourself if you are wrongfully accused of flying a drone illegally.

Knowing the different laws for the State you are living in or the State you will be flying your drone in is important because the laws may be different in each state which may lead to you violating a law and receiving a fine or worse you may be forced to spend some time in prison because of confusing the laws in various States.

Can you fly a drone in a wilderness area

Flying your drone in wilderness areas is currently not allowed. Drones are considered to be motorized equipment which means they are not allowed to take off from, land in or be operated within the designated wilderness areas.

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